Competition among high school principals of charter schools, public schools, and voucher -receiving private schools in the District of Columbia
This study explored the conditions of competition that are implicit in the idea that market-based school reform will improve schools. The research was conducted in Washington, D.C., which provides three theoretically competing schooling options to its public students: the traditional, publicly managed public school system; publicly financed but privately managed charter schools; and the D.C. voucher program, which pays private-school tuition with public funds. Based on interviews with high school principals directing the three types of schools, the study found minimal competition among the types of schools. While all the principals were committed to school choice, there actually was little rivalry among the three types of high school principals. The majority of the principals actually knew little about and felt minimal impact from the other types of high schools. While recruitment of families and students is a major measurement of competition, the study could not find a connection between the level of enrollment and the recruitment efforts of the principals or the quality of information they provided potential families and students. The study also focused on structural issues that could explain the minimal competition among the three types of schools and concluded that, during the period of the study, they were not designed to compete and did not perceive strong incentives to do so.